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Question of the Week
Do you support Cleethorpes Town?
It’s Not Like Watching Portsmouth
By: Andrew Doherty
IT was a bleak, cold and wintry day. The rain lashed down. Where else to go but Brentford to see the Town? Even delusions of adequacy are hard to come by, though. A cup of Bovril and a 0 - 0 draw would do. It’s hard to come up with positive reasons for going.
We are coming off two ignominious defeats, 7 goals conceded, none scored, and are perilously sitting above the relegation zone. Brentford aren't doing much better, not having won or scored in the league for weeks, and leaking 7 goals at Peterborough a couple of games ago. It promises to be an ugly spectacle. Even Richard Branson would have trouble generating enthusiasm for this one.
I made the mistake of arriving early, so I took a walk round Brentford. Unlike Barnet where we set foot two weeks ago, Brentford is not a place for conceptualisation. It is to London what Oldham is to Manchester. It is part of a grimy conurbation reflecting a spread of depressing eras. The anonymous grey towers and cranes in the distance, the overshadowing M4, the run down and beautiless factories on the High Street which are well past their sell by date, and the sad and decrepit excuse for a shopping emporium. In some places this might be considered homely. A sinister feel cuts through the air like a knife. And it’s cold. It’s always cold here. Today the rain was torrential. Brentford is a cure for happiness.
This was not my first time in this symbol of depression, having been to Brentford for Rugby League and once to see Town. That was in 1997. We lost 3 - 1. Apart from that my other experience of Brentford was a famously under-attended game and 0 - 2 loss at the end of the 1968/9 season.
As the rain continued to fall, and it was time to face up to my responsibilities and head to Griffin Park, it was becoming painfully obvious that there would be no beautiful game today. Artistic sliding in the mud was as much as we could hope for. For Christopher Dean, read Nick Fenton. Football purists would be disappointed. In fact we would no doubt all be disappointed.
Then came a Call from Above: "I'm in the New Inn if you want to come for a drink". It was Rob. Life was suddenly getting better. Going to the pub was better than soaking up the non-existent atmosphere. Today the rain was going to soak us up. The New Inn was delightfully cosy and friendly. There was a game of football on the TV. It was a great game. Portsmouth in particular were playing effortlessly dazzling football. Rob started talking about Grimsby Town and passing games. Weird. couldn't see the connection myself. It was such a shame we had to leave the nice warm pub but at least we'd seen one decent side today, albeit on the telly. I noticed on our way out that the New Inn offered accommodation. I'm not so sure about the idea of a football weekend in Brentford, convenient as the New Inn is to Brentford’s ground. I suppose you could pay a supplement and not go to see them.
On our way to the ground, we bumped into my friend Tim, who is a Brentford fan and confirmed what we thought. "we're crap" was his analysis. Well, so are we. We passed up on the "meal deal" in the ground - as Rob observed, curry and rice presumably constituted the cosmopolitan menu, this being London. It was time to face reality. We entered the arena. To our right was the "Refreshing Solutions" stand - if only. they're having a laugh, aren't they? Town lined up as follows in what appeared to be a 3 - 5 - 2 formation: Barnes: Bennett - Fenton - Atkinson: Hird - Bolland - Hunt - Toner - Hegarty: North - Jones.
First half. Barnes had to make his first save after 20 seconds, conceding a corner which was headed over. The driving rain now swept across the pitch. 3 minutes later, Brentford’s Thorpe was allowed space but his shot was wide. North helped out on 8 with a good tackle, but Hegarty was unable to find anyone to give the ball to.
North seemed to be putting himself about and Town, after being pinned down in their own half, started to get forward but the play was patchy. Brentford won another corner on 15, and Dickson had a free header on 17 for Brentford following a cross, but neither side was playing with any real conviction or confidence. I suggested to Rob that we tried to blank out memories of Portsmouth. There were no sublime skills on show here.
Instead to pass the time we discussed crap centre halves who had played for England. The struggle on the field continued. Brentford won a corner on 21 but Barnes was fouled. There was a neat defence-splitting pass on 22, but the referee was having none of this nonsense, and stopped the game seconds later by awarding a free kick for a foul. The only point of interest at this stage was the fact that Hunt had no number or name on his shirt, and had something stuck up his nose. What could it have been?
Town showed some endeavour on 25 when Hegarty worked the ball in to Jones whose header gave North a chance, but North fired over. Brentford won another free kick on 27 which led to a corner. A fierce and accurate shot was fired in but it helpfully cannoned off Brentford’s own Montague and went wide. Good skill by Bolland set up Hird on 29 but a poor pass ended the move.
On 34 Town at last put together a super 9 or 10 pass move, the likes of which had not been seen so far by either side. Hunt linked up with Toner. Hird got the ball and crossed. The Brentford defender miscued the clearance and the ball fell to North, who was off balance and skewed wide from 6 yards out.
On 36, it was Town’s turn to contribute to the Brentford cause when Toner’s header in the box flew back towards the goal. Barnes had to get down and make a low save to his right. Brentford messed up the ensuing corner. Bolland and Hird linked up again on 39, and a good cross was sent in. The ball was cleared and North was unable to get enough power into a half chance. Brentford dominated the latter stages of the half, earning a corner on 40 after a tussle in the box. Barnes took the ball cleanly and the danger was over. Brentford had another chance on 43 when Town were unable to clear the ball, but Toner was fouled. Brentford had another free-kick themselves and a decent attempt was made but Barnes gathered the shot safely. At half-time, the score was Brentford 0, Grimsby Town 0.
Half time verdict. The overriding impression was that both teams were short of confidence. Even the crowd was subdued. Brentford had most of the chances, but didn't really look threatening. The best move of the half was when Town put together a multi-passing move three-quarters of the way through the half. Toner and Bolland the midfield were encouragingly winning balls and trying to set up moves, but overall the ball was being lost too much. The Brentford goalkeeper had no shots to test him. Not great.
The report continues in the Second Half
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